I. D.: How Heredity and Experience Make You Who You Are

I. D.: How Heredity and Experience Make You Who You Are

by Winifred Gallagher
     
 
An award-winning journalist and science writer provides a fascinating, beautifully written explanation of why we are and who we are—the biological and environmental determinants of that most elusive of human qualities: individuality.

Overview

An award-winning journalist and science writer provides a fascinating, beautifully written explanation of why we are and who we are—the biological and environmental determinants of that most elusive of human qualities: individuality.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
Each person's life experience is shaped by the genetically influenced temperament or disposition he or she inherits, asserts science writer Gallagher (The Power of Place). Synthesizing recent research in neuroscience, genetics, psychiatry and biology, she maintains that three basic, partly inherited emotional responses to the world-irritability, gusto and anxiety-shape our adult personalities. According to this theory, heredity inclines us to 'select' certain experiences and environments that then further mold our constantly changing selves. Gallagher examines how the temperaments of surgeons, criminals, cops and hard-driving executives are reinforced, even altered, by events. Another finding she reports is that our experience is engraved on our nervous system, so that, for example, severely abused children have impaired cortisol and catecholamine systems, which regulate mood and stress reactions. Her instructive, open-ended exploration of personality sheds new light on parenting, personal growth, gender differences, national character and possible adverse effects of antidepressants such as Prozac.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Each person's life experience is shaped by the genetically influenced temperament or disposition he or she inherits, asserts science writer Gallagher (The Power of Place). Synthesizing recent research in neuroscience, genetics, psychiatry and biology, she maintains that three basic, partly inherited emotional responses to the world-irritability, gusto and anxiety-shape our adult personalities. According to this theory, heredity inclines us to "select" certain experiences and environments that then further mold our constantly changing selves. Gallagher examines how the temperaments of surgeons, criminals, cops and hard-driving executives are reinforced, even altered, by events. Another finding she reports is that our experience is engraved on our nervous system, so that, for example, severely abused children have impaired cortisol and catecholamine systems, which regulate mood and stress reactions. Her instructive, open-ended exploration of personality sheds new light on parenting, personal growth, gender differences, national character and possible adverse effects of antidepressants such as Prozac. Author tour. (Apr.)
Library Journal
What makes us the way we are? Can an individual change his or her behavior? These are the questions that Gallagher (The Power of Place, LJ 3/1/94) attempts to answer in this introductory discussion of current research on nature and nurture. Citing studies from behavioral and biological sciences, Gallagher illustrates the interaction of inherited and environmental factors using incidents from the life of Monica, the subject of a 40-year longitudinal study beginning with her diagnosis as a failure-to-thrive infant hospitalized for the correction of birth defects. Gallagher examines studies of infant feeding and early childhood experiences, discusses changes induced by psychoactive drugs and psychotherapy, and investigates cultural, historical, and geographical influences on personality. Written in a nontechnical, often colloquial style, this survey of our current understanding of identity is well recommended for general psychology collections.-Lucille Boone, San Jose P.L., Cal.
Donna Seaman
The question of why people are the way they are is intrinsic to the ever-perplexing human condition. Gallagher, an engaging science writer and author of "The Power of Place" (1993), presents various theories of temperament, from the humors of Hippocrates to the current understanding of genetics, adaptive behavior, and neurotransmitters. Along the way, she offers some stirring descriptions of distinctive personality types, illustrated by examples as diverse as Ty Cobb and Sylvia Plath, and presents fresh approaches to the age-old paradox of nature versus nurture. Her benchmark throughout this engaging survey is the remarkable story of a woman, Monica, who was rendered all but catatonic in early infancy by neglect. The details of Monica's recovery illuminate all the issues Gallagher raises regarding the myriad vicissitudes of temperament and behavior. In conclusion, Gallagher reminds readers that even in this era of readily available psychoactive drugs, they mustn't forget that the "wealth of dispositions is our species' glory."
Kirkus Reviews
An unwieldy assemblage of information on the varied elements—from genes to neurotransmitters to early life experiences—that are believed to contribute to personality.

Science writer Gallagher (The Power of Place, 1993) has assembled but not digested a huge amount of information on the complementary roles of nature and nurture in forming our individual identities. Her book centers on a woman identified as Monica. Monica was studied from her sensually deprived infancy (when an esophageal defect necessitated tube feeding and a depressed mother neglected her) and on into her unpredictably happy, successful adulthood—a success psychologists say is due to an inborn temperamental gift that we might call charisma. Pursuing this and many other studies (but without sourcing them), Gallagher brings out a particularly interesting point: that research has found nature and nurture to be linked in a two-way relationship. For instance, experience can actually change neurotransmitter patterns in the brain; conversely, our inborn temperament can influence what kinds of experiences we have. But Gallagher lacks a strong framework or point of view; she roams all over the psychological map, from memory to the unconscious to the artistic temperament. Too often, she gives an on-the-one-hand/on-the-other summary of the facts that leads to no conclusion other than the fairly useless one often repeated to her by researchers: We still don't know how much our genes and our environment contribute respectively to our selves. Further, she relies heavily on models that measure temperament on a range of axes, such as extroversion and agreeableness. But while Gallagher protests how complex personality is, this theory sounds like a simplistic building-block approach: Mr. X may have a large dose of extroversion, a touch of irritability, etc.

Researchers recently announced the identification of a gene they say influences temperament. Only the future will tell us what Gallagher unfortunately can't.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679430186
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/28/1996
Edition description:
1st ed
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
6.36(w) x 9.55(h) x 1.00(d)

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